A concerted campaign was run to defame the BAPS Swami Narayan Temple at New Jersey by the Hinduphobic western media like the New York times, Washington Post, Forbes and Hindu haters like Audrey Truschke, Equality Labs under the garb of reporting a trumped up lawsuit against the BAPS accusing it of forced labour and caste discrimination against Dalits. BAPS stands for Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushotam Swaminarayan Sanstha, a Hindu denomination within the Swaminarayan Sampradaya.
A lawsuit claimed that workers used for building the BAPS temple at New Jersey were trafficked to the US by misrepresentation, the workers’ passports were confiscated and they were forced to live and work in a fenced and guarded area.
The complaint also claimed that they were forced to work for 12-13 hours a day and paid $1.2 per hour (approximately $425 to $450 per month).
While the New Jersey Labour Department in its investigation found a US labour contracting firm guilty of violating labour laws and stopped its operations. It issued a press statement stating that action was initiated against labour contractor, Cunha Construction Inc and its American owner Nuno Cunha for violation of labour laws.
It issued a company-wide stop work order to Cunha Construction for repeated violations of state wage and hour laws. The investigations revealed that the company’s irregularities dates back to projects from 2007.
The Swami Narayan temple management is clearly not guilty of any forced labour or labour discrimination, as it had contracted out its labour needs to an American firm, which is now found to have a history of labour law violations by the authorities.
Meanwhile, the BAPS management had through its representative Matthew Frankel issued a statement stating, “We were first made aware of the accusations early Tuesday morning, we are taking them seriously and are thoroughly reviewing the issues raised”. It also stated, “The Sanstha (BAPS) has followed all the immigration and labour laws appropriately”.
This lawsuit was blown out of proportion and received disproportionately large coverage from the leftist Hinduphobic western media and even acerbic characters like Audrey Truschke by running stories with headlines like- “Hindu sect accused of using forced labour to construct Hindu temple” in the New York Times. Some media reports went to the extent of accusing BAPS of practicing “pervasive discrimination against members of India’s marginalised social castes – even in the United States”. That is they used the opportunity to target BAPS – a Hindu organisation to unfairly accuse it of oppressing Dalits in America.
Patricia Kakalec, a New Jersey lawyer representing Dalit workers in her complaint statement made wild accusations claiming, “Swami Prasanand calls Scheduled Caste as worms”. According to sources an leftist-Dalit advocate, Swati Sawant seems to have cooked up the case with some evangelists to target BAPS to tarnish its image. Notably, the BAPS is very popular not only among Indian origin Americans but also among the whites and coloured people by its selfless service during natural disasters and the Covid pandemic by providing relief, donating free food and medical equipments for the needy.
According to sources only 6 out of the total 200 workers employed in BAPS temple were Dalits and the construction company as well as the labour contractor firms were all American Christian owned and not Hindu owned. But still a narrative was created with sensational headlines and mischievous coverage, even by the leftist web portal Wire with headlines claiming, “Dalit Workers Allege ‘Shocking Violations’ in Building Temple in New Jersey”.
Even BJP-RSS and Modi were dragged into the calumny and claims were made that the BAPS’ head priest was a mentor to PM Modi, whom they love to hate. The BAPS was also insinuated as a communal organisation as it had pledged money for the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya ‘on the ruins of a Babari mosque’. Well facts are always a casualty for these Hinduphobics, it did not bother them that Babur had got an ancient pre-existing temple marking the place of birth of Lord Ram demolished and constructed a mosque in the memory of his boy-lover at the site to insult Hindus.
There seems to be more a conspiracy to defame BAPS rather than get workers their due rights from the erring American labour company and construction companies. As the whole media campaign reeks of Hinduphobia and spewing venom against a well renowned Hindu religious organisation with a huge follower base.
News input: New York Times, Forbes, Organiser.
Image sourced from: BAPS New Jersey website, Organiser
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